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J.R. Criders clothing boutique expands to Gainesville
Ana Eguiluz browses through the garment selection Thursday afternoon at J.R. Crider's in downtown Gainesville.

It all started with a bow tie.

“I was wearing bow ties before they were cool,” said Dan Fifer, owner of J.R. Crider’s clothing boutique. “I was the only one wearing them to high school proms back in the early 2000s. I would end up being called ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ for the rest of the year, but that’s kind of where we grabbed the logo from. We didn’t want another dog or another ‘Southern’ something, but we wanted it to be original, unique to our lives.”

The canary yellow bow tie logo has become synonymous with J.R. Crider’s, the Southern lifestyle boutique that opened its second location in Gainesville on Aug. 23. The store, which began in Dahlonega, specializes in slightly upscale, collegiate-style apparel such as collared shirts for men, printed dresses for women and a sizeable T-shirt collection best suited to tailgating parties and football games.

Marketed largely to young adults, the whole idea for the store came from Fifer’s realization that his alma mater, the University of North Georgia, didn’t have a nearby men’s apparel store for students who didn’t want to buy all their clothes at the mall.

“We saw the need for a store like ours,” said Fifer, who graduated from UNG in 2011. “There was a rise in (popularity of) lifestyle brands, Southern styles, but we didn’t want to drive an hour to Atlanta or Athens to get them. We wanted those styles to be available in Dahlonega.”

In the June of 2012, J.R. Crider’s first store opened off the Dahlonega square. At just 1,000 square feet, the first store didn’t include the women’s area or the bar/lounge area and pool table that was added in 2013.

“It’s like a little man cave, I guess,” Fifer said.

The new location on Bradford Street features a candy bar and flat-screen television often tuned into college sports.

In just two years, J.R. Crider’s saw its popularity grow tremendously since the first store opened. While the original location has expanded, the fledgling business also saw sizeable growth in its wholesale business.

The number of similar boutiques across the Southeast that carry the J.R. Crider’s brand — including the line of bow ties — has grown to 20.

Fifer is confident the Gainesville store will see the same success.

“We’ve been really encouraged,” Fifer said. “We had our second largest day in company history on the grand opening. We had a line down the block. One guy was out there waiting since 6 a.m. that morning to be one of the first (customers).”

Despite this considerable growth, Fifer and his company have no plans to hit the gas on corporate expansion.

“We’re kind of still in the sense of taking it slow,” Fifer said. “We really want to focus on customer service, just to be in the stores as much as we can, getting to know the customer base. Having them know our names is a big draw for a store like us.”

The desire for personal connection and originality comes easy to Fifer and his wife, fellow University of North Georgia graduate Whitney Fifer. The original J.R. Crider was Whitney Fifer’s grandfather John Roy Crider, a former U.S. military serviceman and Georgia Softball Hall of Fame member.

“We just thought it had a nice ring to it,” Fifer said. “It’s kind of funny, (John Roy Crider) is a really humble, godly man, and at first he didn’t like the idea.”

But Crider relented after the Fifers “kind of twisted his arm,” and now the 75-year-old Gainesville resident is enjoying some unexpected benefits of being the brand’s namesake.

“Now he really likes it because he says he doesn’t have to worry about writing his name on the tags of his shirts,” Fifer said.

Ultimately the desire to be unique yet timeless is behind the company’s sole long-term goal.

“Our long-term goal is we want to be the store that no one can remember when it wasn’t there,” Fifer said. “We want to be where your daughter and son get their first homecoming dress, their first jacket, where they learn how to tie a bow tie.”

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